Two tales of customer experience

January 04, 2007

Posted in Small Business.


On New Year’s Eve, my wife and I went to Donovan’s in Phoenix. One of two locations, this restaurant experience was nothing short of spectacular. Starting with the dress code and complimentary valet service, we were in awe of the luxurious style. We were welcomed, seated, and introduced to the restaurant and its menu. While we aren’t rich by any stretch, that wasn’t important. What made the experience is that we felt rich.

From the service to the amenities to the quality (prime filet mignon and Australian rock lobster…mmmm), the entire experience was a treat that I’ll remember for many years. I didn’t feel out of place (except when we were leaving the parking lot in our rented minivan, driving past a Ferrari and a Porsche). I’m sure the staff noticed my hiking boots, neatly tucked under my trouser cuff in an attempt to pass them off as casual loafers. But I didn’t feel judged. In fact, I felt like they knew it was a special treat and worked harder to make our experience even more pleasant.

Related Links

Donovan’s Steakhouse

A review of the other Donovan’s which seemed consistent with our experience


I hate flying. I always feel nervous, I hate the cramped spaces, and I simply cannot sleep during a flight. So I tend to spend the time reading, staring out the window, or listening to music. On our return flight from Phoenix, we were on a Delta 757. I have to say, this was an excellent flight experience. It’s not like we were in first class. We were in the economy seating.

LCD Screens in the seat backs. Movies and games were $5. Live television ranging from ESPN to Food Network to several news channels. Plus, what looked like a hundred or so albums you could call up and listen to (I checked out the new Flaming Lips album and also got a dose of classic Bob Dylan). Two snacks. Plenty of drinks. Friendly staff.

This satisfaction is partly due to low expectations–people just don’t expect much out of airlines anymore. It starts off with feeling like a criminal as you’re searched at the security gate. You wait and wait, flights delayed or cancelled. By the time you take off, you’re already in a crummy, anxious mood. So when something goes wrong, it’s magnified by the setup. What I find remarkable is when a business can overcome a negative and make a positive impression.

From CrankyFlier:

“I always hear the argument that successful airlines are those that underpromise and overdeliver. Take a look at Southwest Airlines. When you buy a ticket, you expect a seat and you expect to get to your destination, but that’s about it. When they sling a snack box at you and have flight attendants that actually smile, you’re thrilled at how the experience exceeded your expectations.”